UK Automotive Sector Faces Critical Skills Gap “Timebomb,” Warns GSF Car Parts CEO

UK Automotive Sector Faces Critical Skills Gap “Timebomb,” Warns GSF Car Parts CEO
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Steve Horne, CEO of GSF Car Parts, has issued a stark warning about the burgeoning skills gap in the UK's automotive sector, describing it as a "timebomb" that demands immediate attention from future governments.

Steve Horne, CEO of GSF Car Parts, has issued a stark warning about the burgeoning skills gap in the UK’s automotive sector, describing it as a “timebomb” that demands immediate attention from future governments.

This intervention, ahead of a major industry trade event, underscores the urgent need to address this issue, which Horne calls an “artificial straitjacket” restricting the potential of independent garages and escalating costs for motorists.

GSF Car Parts, the UK’s leading distributor of car parts with 185 branches and over 3,000 employees, recently announced a substantial investment in a new 500,000-square-foot distribution centre in Wolverhampton. Despite these growth efforts, the company faces significant challenges in recruiting skilled workers.

Horne emphasised, “The skills gap currently facing the sector is a huge ticking timebomb – and it only seems to be getting wider and wider. This is incredibly painful for garages that are successfully winning work and looking to grow.”

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“The skills gap is a straitjacket around the growth ambitions of the entire sector. GSF Car Parts is recruiting heavily and adding a huge range of skilled jobs. But finding people is a real challenge for the sector, and there is no sign that this will let up any time soon.”

He added that the skills gap could negatively impact UK consumers by reducing choice, stifling competition, and driving up motoring costs, especially as the industry transitions to electric vehicles (EVs).

Horne’s comments come ahead of GSF’s TechFest Garage Technology Festival in Wembley, which will bring together major suppliers from across the automotive industry to discuss new technology and business opportunities for independent garages.

“We need to sort this out – and quickly,” Horne urged. “We need to direct more young people to the sector, give the industry a name as an ideal career destination, whilst opening more routes for young people. The independent garage sector has been in the shadows too long. There are exceptional people working in skilled roles on incredibly complex vehicle technologies. The public’s perception may be of people twirling spanners, but technicians need a raft of skills to deal with today’s cars.”

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Supporting Horne’s sentiments, Ambi Singh, CEO of Easy2Recruit, highlighted the severe worker shortages threatening the UK automotive sector’s competitiveness on a global scale. According to the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI), there is a predicted shortfall of 160,000 workers this decade, with vehicle technician roles being the most critical.

“The motor industry is facing a significant and serious challenge when it comes to staffing,” Singh said. “This shortage poses a direct threat to the UK’s automotive industry’s ability to innovate and compete on a global stage, especially in the shift towards sustainable and electric vehicles. The urgency of this matter cannot be overstated.”

To mitigate this crisis, Singh recently wrote to the Home Secretary, advocating for vehicle technicians, mechanics, and electricians to be added to the Shortage Occupation List. This move would enable the automotive sector to tap into the global talent pool, ensuring sustained growth and innovation.

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As the UK navigates the challenges of the post-pandemic era and the transition to EVs, addressing the skills gap in the automotive sector will be crucial for maintaining economic stability and industry competitiveness.

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UK Automotive Sector Faces Critical Skills Gap “Timebomb,” Warns GSF Car Parts CEO

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